Monday, November 12, 2007

Chapter Ten, Part 1

Originally published 3/25/2006.

In Chapter 10, we have several interesting vignettes: Miss Bingley with Darcy; Bingley, Darcy and Lizzy; a possible dance between Darcy and Lizzy; and finally a small tete-a-tete between Miss Bingley and Darcy.

The day passed much as the day before had done. Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley had spent some hours of the morning with the invalid, who continued, though slowly, to mend; and in the evening Elizabeth joined their party in the drawing-room. The loo-table, however, did not appear. Mr. Darcy was writing, and Miss Bingley, seated near him, was watching the progress of his letter and repeatedly calling his attention by messages to his sister...

Have you ever had someone do that to you? I know I have, and found it rather irritating. That Darcy does not find it so at least indicates his lack of regard for Miss Bingley. Or, it might indicate his lack of regard for just about anybody; or it might indicate his unconcern as to whether anyone reads his correspondence in addition to the recipient. Take your pick.

...Mr. Hurst and Mr. Bingley were at piquet, and Mrs. Hurst was observing their game.

Elizabeth took up some needlework, and was sufficiently amused in attending to what passed between Darcy and his companion. The perpetual commendations of the lady, either on his handwriting, or on the evenness of his lines, or on the length of his letter, with the perfect unconcern with which her praises were received, formed a curious dialogue, and was exactly in union with her opinion of each.

"How delighted Miss Darcy will be to receive such a letter!"

This is Miss Bingley. Most of the dialogue here is quite clear as to who is speaking, so I shall not indicate the speaker on every line.

He made no answer.

"You write uncommonly fast."

"You are mistaken. I write rather slowly."

"How many letters you must have occasion to write in the course of a year! Letters of business, too! How odious I should think them!"

"It is fortunate, then, that they fall to my lot instead of yours."

"Pray tell your sister that I long to see her."

"I have already told her so once, by your desire."

I liked the BBC movie version's exaggeration: "I have already told her thrice." Said in a complete deadpan, of course.

"I am afraid you do not like your pen. Let me mend it for you. I mend pens remarkably well."

"Thank you-- but I always mend my own."

"How can you contrive to write so even?"

He was silent.

"Tell your sister I am delighted to hear of her improvement on the harp; and pray let her know that I am quite in raptures with her beautiful little design for a table, and I think it infinitely superior to Miss Grantley's."

"Will you give me leave to defer your raptures till I write again? At present I have not room to do them justice."

O, the sarcasm. "Raptures" indicates to me a little bit of a poke at Miss Bingley. Nowadays, Darcy might have called her a ditz.

"Oh! It is of no consequence. I shall see her in January. But do you always write such charming long letters to her, Mr. Darcy?"

"They are generally long; but whether always charming it is not for me to determine."

"It is a rule with me, that a person who can write a long letter with ease, cannot write ill."

This is rather a silly comment. It is quite possible, maybe even probable, that in the multiplication of many words there will be much silliness. There's a proverb about that...

"That will not do for a compliment to Darcy, Caroline," cried her brother,...

Interesting, isn't it, that Mr. Bingley recognizes Miss Bingley is trying to flatter Darcy? He might be trying to chide his sister for so doing. I don't know, though. It's rather subtle.

..."because he does not write with ease. He studies too much for words of four syllables. Do not you, Darcy?"

"My style of writing is very different from yours."

"Oh!" cried Miss Bingley, "Charles writes in the most careless way imaginable. He leaves out half his words, and blots the rest."

Blotting is putting a sheet of blotting paper on top of your letter and pressing down firmly. The idea is to absorb any excess ink so it doesn't run. I would guess that such blotting was common practice in letter-writing. So I used to think that you should read this passage as follows: leaving out words is opposed to blotting. I suppose it is, actually, but not in the way I thought. The blotted words are the ones the recipient actually gets. If this explanation is unclear that's probably because it is still a bit unclear in my mind. Any help on this one would be appreciated.

"My ideas flow so rapidly that I have not time to express them-- by which means my letters sometimes convey no ideas at all to my correspondents."

Mr. Bingley here.

"Your humility, Mr. Bingley," said Elizabeth, "must disarm reproof."

"Nothing is more deceitful," said Darcy, "than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast."

"And which of the two do you call
my little recent piece of modesty?"

Mr. Bingley here.

"The indirect boast; for you are really proud of your defects in writing, because you consider them as proceeding from a rapidity of thought and carelessness of execution, which, if not estimable, you think at least highly interesting. The power of doing anything with quickness is always prized much by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance...

This is quite an interesting little piece of Darcy's. Austen said that Darcy was clever, and I think here is one instance where such cleverness comes out. However, Darcy is in reality reproving his friend in front of loads of people; this might not have been the best time to say this. Or it might be just fine. This is an interesting question for the reader: one general rule of apology is that the confession should be as public as the sin was. We have Paul opposing Peter to his face when Peter stopped eating with the Gentiles. Very public sin, very public reproof. Now Bingley, if he has indirectly boasted, did it in front of all the same people to whom Darcy is not talking. So the level of publicity is certainly the same. But I don't think that reproof should always be as public as the sin. What is your opinion?

...When you told Mrs. Bennet this morning, that if you ever resolved upon quitting Netherfield you should be gone in five minutes, you meant it to be a sort of panegyric, of compliment to yourself-- and yet what is there so very laudable in a precipitance which must leave very necessary business undone, and can be of no real advantage to yourself or anyone else?"

As Bingley says next, it is rather remarkable that Darcy remembers this. Perhaps, because Darcy is proud, he immediately detects it in anyone else and earmarks all such comments for further study. As C. S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, pride is not about being good or excellent at anything. It's about being better and more excellent than the next guy.

"Nay," cried Bingley, "this is too much, to remember at night all the foolish things that were said in the morning. And, yet, upon my honour, I believe what I said of myself to be true, and I believe it at this moment. At least, therefore, I did not assume the character of needless precipitance merely to show off before the ladies."

To remember what Bingley said, allow me to quote it here: "'Whatever I do is done in a hurry,' replied he; 'and therefore if I should resolve to quit Netherfield, I should probably be off in five minutes. At present, however, I consider myself as quite fixed here.'" So Bingley is saying that he spoke truth of himself, and so he didn't assume a false character for the purposes of boasting in front of the ladies. Of course, he might still have been boasting; there is no need to always be mentioning our strong points, or at least what we consider to be our strong points.

"I dare say you believed it; but I am by no means convinced that you would be gone with such celerity. Your conduct would be quite as dependent on chance as that of any man I know; and if, as you were mounting your horse, a friend were to say, 'Bingley, you had better stay till next week,' you would probably do it, you would probably not go-- and at another word, might stay a month."

Darcy here is saying that Bingley sometimes seems to have no good reason for his actions, a situation he would probably deplore.

"You have only proved by this," cried Elizabeth, "that Mr. Bingley did not do justice to his own disposition. You have shown him off now much more than he did himself."

What is Lizzy seeing in Mr. Bingley that she "converts" Darcy's reproof into a compliment? I think we get a clue later on, when Lizzy says to Darcy that "You appear to me, Mr. Darcy, to allow nothing for the influence of friendship and affection." Lizzy is admiring the readiness of Bingley to go in with his friends' wishes.

"I am exceedingly gratified," said Bingley, "by your converting what my friend says into a compliment on the sweetness of my temper. But I am afraid you are giving it a turn which that gentleman did by no means intend; for he would certainly think better of me, if under such a circumstance I were to give a flat denial, and ride off as fast as I could."

Bingley is quite clever enough to understand what Darcy is about, which leads one to wonder whether Lizzy really understands him at this point or no. If she does, then she might be trying to force Darcy to be polite. If not, then appearances are close to reality.

"Would Mr. Darcy then consider the rashness of your original intentions as atoned for by your obstinacy in adhering to it?"

Lizzy here. She is attemping a bit of a reductio ad absurdum argument, I think.

"Upon my word, I cannot exactly explain the matter; Darcy must speak for himself."

Bingley refers to Darcy, admitting that he cannot really interpret Darcy completely here; perhaps he does not see precisely what Darcy is saying.

"You expect me to account for opinions which you choose to call mine, but which I have never acknowledged. Allowing the case, however, to stand according to your representation, you must remember, Miss Bennet, that the friend who is supposed to desire his return to the house, and the delay of his plan, has merely desired it, asked it without offering one argument in favour of its propriety."

So Darcy, while not acknowledging that the stated position is his own, would seem to consider a request incomplete unless it were accompanied with a full array of reasons to back it up. Seems rather officious to me. Mr. Collins is an hilarious example of this sort of thing in his proposal to Lizzy.

"To yield readily-- easily-- to the persuasion of a friend is no merit with you."

Lizzy trying to sound out Darcy's position.

"To yield without conviction is no compliment to the understanding of either."

Have to side with Lizzy on this one, I think.

"You appear to me, Mr. Darcy, to allow nothing for the influence of friendship and affection. A regard for the requester would often make one readily yield to a request, without waiting for arguments to reason one into it. I am not particularly speaking of such a case as you have supposed about Mr. Bingley. We may as well wait, perhaps, till the circumstance occurs before we discuss the discretion of his behaviour thereupon. But in general and ordinary cases between friend and friend, where one of them is desired by the other to change a resolution of no very great moment, should you think ill of that person for complying with the desire, without waiting to be argued into it?"

Lizzy is arguing from the general to the specific. She ends up saying that you'd have to wait and see with any particular case as to whether it is indeed the case that the "yielding" friend is ready and willing to do so without reasons for it.

"Will it not be advisable, before we proceed on this subject, to arrange with rather more precision the degree of importance which is to appertain to this request, as well as the degree of intimacy subsisting between the parties?"

Darcy does have a point here in the debate. Before saying anything really intelligent, it might be wise to define your terms.

"By all means," cried Bingley; "let us hear all the particulars, not forgetting their comparative height and size; for that will have more weight in the argument, Miss Bennet, than you may be aware of. I assure you, that if Darcy were not such a great tall fellow, in comparison with myself, that I should not pay him half so much deference. I declare I do not know a more awful object than Darcy, on particular occasions, and in particular places; at his own house especially, and of a Sunday evening, when he has nothing to do."

I think it is clear, and Darcy knows it is, that Bingley is trying to shut down the debate. I can easily see that Bingley types do not tend to prefer argumentation. They perhaps see to great an opportunity of offending people, whereas they like to be liked. The Darcy types (people such as myself) greatly enjoy debate. I doubt not that Darcy is having the time of his life, arguing with such a pretty woman as Lizzy, and finding her to be his equal.

However, one point is of slight puzzlement to me: wherein consists this "offense" that Bingley carries against Darcy? Is it ridiculing the reasons and presuppositions of the debate, as evidenced by, "'By all means,' cried Bingley; 'let us hear all the particulars, not forgetting their comparative height and size; for that will have more weight in the argument, Miss Bennet, than you may be aware of.'"?

Mr. Darcy smiled; but Elizabeth thought she could perceive that he was rather offended, and therefore checked her laugh...

Nice of Lizzy. Even though she dislikes Darcy, she is still polite.

...Miss Bingley warmly resented the indignity he had received, in an expostulation with her brother for talking such nonsense.

"I see your design, Bingley," said his friend. "You dislike an argument, and want to silence this."

Darcy here. I mentioned this passage above.

"Perhaps I do. Arguments are too much like disputes. If you and Miss Bennet will defer yours till I am out of the room, I shall be very thankful; and then you may say whatever you like of me."

"What you ask," said Elizabeth, "is no sacrifice on my side; and Mr. Darcy had much better finish his letter."

Mr. Darcy took her advice, and did finish his letter.

As good a place as any to divide the chapter.